"Space of Difference": Field Trip to Bauhaus Dessau

Report by Fangyi Chen, Master's student Translation Chinese-German

What is Bauhaus, beyond a significant style of architecture? Bauhaus stands for an aesthetic of lines and colors. Bauhaus is a revolutionized lifestyle of functionality. Bauhaus is also a gathering of students and Bauhaus masters towards the goal of creation. This last point also describes the Q+ course "Space of Difference" ("Raum der Unterschiede"), a field trip to Bauhaus in Dessau, which was realized as an Open Studio in cooperation with the Mainz Academy of Arts and Bauhaus Dessau.

As part of a Q+ course, our small group of students from various disciplines such as law, translation, art, and sociology traveled to Dessau in July 2020, where we visited the Bauhaus Building and the Bauhaus Museum over the course of two days. We took a guided tour through the Bauhaus building, where we visited teaching and working rooms as well as the famous office of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. The building's simple colors, unadorned design, and the strong emphasis on transparency exemplified the key elements and fundamental ideas of the Bauhaus style.

After the tour, we participated in a preliminary course taught by Katja Klaus and Philipp Sack. In a workroom at the Bauhaus Building, we learned more about the history and the ideas behind Bauhaus, such as the first-time crossover between applied and aesthetic arts, or the possibility of admission for female students, still far from common at the time.

One highlight of the preliminary course was the small material experiment, which asked us try and leave traces on paper with a variety of objects. This was one of the tasks given to Bauhaus students back in the day, so that they could learn about their materials and unleash their creativity. The preliminary courses were designed to break with the institutionalized knowledge about art and encourage free thinking. As an example, the Q+students performed the experiment using water, a watch and a shoestring - the out-of-the-box thinking was highly interesting!

The course and the visit to the Bauhaus building opened up new perspectives on life and learning at Bauhaus. Bauhaus is more than the familiar furniture and architectural style. It is also an approach towards teaching and an experiment in communal living between students and teachers. Accordingly, the architecture of the Bauhaus Building can be divided into four segments, which have different functions and formsĀ  (learning area, administration, living area, and green or leisure area behind the building). The learning area is wide, open, and leaves space for creativity. The administrative office section is at the center of the building. The rooms of the living area are both separate and connected, which shaped the relationships between the students living there. Finally, the green behind the building offered more space for free activities. Bauhaus was a like a small utopia, which keeps exerting an influence on the present through its works.

In order to learn more about these works, we visited the Bauhaus Museum the following day. First, we took a guided tour through the museum and then explored its spaces independently. Each of us had the assignment of thinking about how we would have conceptualized the exhibit. The results created a spirited discussion, which allowed everyone to contribute their creative and critical thoughts.

Henrike Plegge of the Mainz Academy of Art accompanied the field trip, and applied many teaching methods that would have been at home at Bauhaus. For example, we received a box of paper and various materials, which we could use to freely take notes and sketches. Repeatedly, students remarked that the course itself "was like Bauhaus." Sharing the train journey, meals, and many group discussions offered many opportunities for an exchange of thoughts between students, which was not only important for the original Bauhaus, but also corresponds to the core idea behind Q+.

Two weeks after the course we gathered one more time. As we were sitting on the meadows along the Rhine, I had to think of the Bauhaus students that would have gathered on the green behind the Bauhaus Building. In the space of difference, you get to know each other, and learn and grow through a creative exchange. This space was offered by Bauhaus then, and it was offered now by the field trip "Space of Difference."

More information on Open Studios Mainz can be found here.

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